More than a decade ago I had a party, it was August and for once we were having a relatively decent summer. I was working at a major London hospital, one of my transient stopovers in my work as an agency operating theatre practitioner. We had decided to celebrate my birthday.
Now moving around all the time makes you way more money than staying in one hospital and slugging your guts out working for the NHS (National Health Service), but the downside is that you never really make close friends. In addition,the shift system makes it difficult to arrange such events as someone you want to come is always working. So, I put a notice on the board that read:
Lizzie is having an impromptu birthday party. Due to shift constraints feel free to come and go as required anytime from 12 noon. Party ends when the last guest leaves. We have several BBQ’s catering for carnivores, Halal carnivores, Kosher carnivores and veg heads. If this doesn’t cover you, bring a disposable BBQ and something to throw on it. ANYONE discussing religion or politics will be physically thrown out of the house. National dress would be wonderful, otherwise anything is acceptable. Liz.
As you may have guessed the hospital was very mixed bag of people with almost all nationalities represented. At one minute past noon the first guest arrived, a Hindu doctor with a bag full of wonderfully exotic veggies. She apologised for her plastic surgeon husband…a kid with a facial dog bite would see him working for several more hours. By 2pm the garden was full of happy chatting people, many in national dress, or national colours, it was wonderful.
People came and went throughout the day and into the night, the last guest leaving at 0500, well so we thought until we found one on the sofa, sound asleep, his jacket used as a blanket. It was a really wonderful day and will stick with me forever. 19 nationalities came to my home that day. People ranging from a hospital porter to an internationally renowned cardiac surgeon and pretty much everything in between.
Of course some people avoided certain other people but it was done quietly and attending family members never even noticed. To see toddlers from opposing ‘sides’ chasing each other around and sharing toys was magical, and when one tumbled, its parent out of reach the ‘opposing’ parent picked her up, dusted her off and returned her to her father. The men, whose countries were bitter enemies shook hands. Not usually given to emotion I felt like crying…could have been the drink I suppose.
You can imagine my surprise, and horror, when a couple of weeks later a documentary about muslim extremism in the UK was aired on television and one of the doctors who had spent hours in my home was seen, and heard voicing his opinion of the UK and the British people. Secret filming inside the mosque filmed the preachers, and the congregation.
This man, whose last child I had helped into the world, at his request might I add, was praying for the death of the Kufar (non-believers) via holy jihad. This man, whose home I had visited with flowers for his wife and gifts for the baby regarded me, and all other British women as a ‘dirty kufar whores’
Within minutes the phone started ringing, colleagues who were watching the same programme. Like me they were experiencing utter disbelief at what they were seeing. Yet there it was, on the television. He was not being coerced, threatened, nothing. The words coming out of his mouth were his alone.
I watched, for an hour, as he and others with similar opinions slated the country that they now lived in, the country that educated their children, gave them jobs. I listened as he talked of jihad, holy war and how he would happily martyr himself for the cause at the first available opportunity. I felt sick, genuinely physically sick.
I went into work extra early the next day. Walked into the doctors changing room alongside another guy with the same idea. Our now ex-colleague was clearing out his locker, flanked by two uniformed police officers and a senior hospital manager. Mike the guy with me asked him why. The answer was not verbal. The doctor spat in his face. Our colleague, our friend, the man who we shared food with, tended patients with, spat in Mikes face.
Our cases were delayed that day as we re-jigged the list borrowing anaesthetists to fill the gap that his departure had left. All the patients were treated, but the mood was sombre, quiet, as we all considered the implications of what had happened.
Other muslim doctors, and nurses were quick to condemn him. They tried so hard to convince us that they were okay, they didn’t have the same opinions, but it never really worked. If this guy, one of the longest serving anaesthetists and regular on the dinner and party list could feel like this…well putting it bluntly, so could they.
A few weeks later, sitting in the staff coffee lounge a few of us were trying to summon up the energy to go home after one of the worst night shifts I can remember. Someone flicked on the television. We thought it was a disaster movie as we saw a plane fly right into the side of the World Trade centre. We changed the channel and the same movie was on, we changed the channel again…it was September 11th 2001.
Calls were made, the word spread. As operations finished the next patients were not sent for, the room filled with hospital staff. It was quiet, so quiet, the room could have been empty. After a couple of minutes muttered prayers were whispered by the devout of a dozen different religions. A very mild mannered, very tiny little nurse shot across the room, grabbed a female gynaecologist by the throat screaming and shouting at her in a language we didn’t understand.
The gynaecologist was giving praise to Allah, praying that her brothers would enjoy everlasting peace and that their martyrdom would be copied by those who came after them.
Aisha, the nurse was an ex-muslim. She spoke English with a French accent, she had been born there. She fled France after two attempts on her life. Her father and one of her brothers said she had dishonoured the family by refusing to go through with an arranged marriage. she still bore the burn scars of one of the attacks. Borrowing money from friends she went to Calais, got on a Eurostar train and never looked back. The friends were told she was going to more moderate relatives in Germany. At 17 she arrived in the UK with a backpack and £15. A couple of years later she fell in love with a bricklayer, married him and with his help erased as many links to her past as possible.
As you can imagine we used Aisha as our teacher, she was bombarded with questions for weeks and answered them all to the best of her ability.
So many of her words have stayed with me in the intervening years, but none more than what she said about martyrdom.
She explained that those who commit these acts want to die. They actually want to die so that they can sit with Allah and be revered for all time.
The worst punishment that these men and women can have is failure, failure to achieve the state of martyrdom. Committing the most heinous of crimes is not enough to ensure they sit with Allah, the proof of their love for him, their loyalty to him is to die for him whilst in battle with the enemies of Allah, the enemies of Islam.
Nidal Hasan has committed mass murder. What to some makes it worse than other mass shootings is that Hasan was a doctor, a man trained to heal. In addition, he was a member of the US military and murdered his comrades. What has to happen for Hasan to become a martyr is that he dies for what he did. Execution for his crimes will count, it will do just nicely. Only death brought about by his crime will secure his place at Allah’s side.
Paralysed during the incident and demanding to wear the beard required by his religion Hasan has been sentenced to death. He will be pleased about this. It’s difficult for those of us who believe that life is sacrosanct to get our heads around this, but it’s just the way it is.
Anyone who dies during jihad is getting their most desired wish. Locking them up and throwing away the key prevents them from being referred to as a martyr for all time. Their names will not be muttered in the revered tone saved for such people. They will not sit with Allah, they will not be a martyr, and they will be regarded as having failed to complete their mission.
Nidal Hasan, should in my opinion spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement in his wheelchair, his chin shaved pondering what he’s done,. To sit there, for years, deprived of the one thing he craves , his only reading material a copy of The Quran, will be hell on Earth for him. His holy book will be a constant reminder of how he failed by surviving. It will irritate him, cause him mental anguish and despair. He should be reminded on a daily basis that he will not sit on the right hand of his god, that he failed, that he will never enter into martyrdom.
He will spend his days thinking of the martyrs who went before him, those who succeeded where he failed. He will be filled with self loathing that he cannot join them. Such is his faith and his belief in Islam.
Executing this man will cause rejoicing amongst jihadist groups around the world. They will hold his picture aloft and bow down in front of it, they will burn the American flag at the same time as praising Allah for providing a way for this wonderful man to get into the kingdom of heaven.
Execution holds no fear for him. He wants it, he craves it, he actually NEEDS it to get where he wants to be. For the sake of the men and women who died at Fort Hood, in their memory, cut off the head of the beast, the time has come to stop feeding the monsters in our midst. Anyone who commits such atrocities in the name of a god, any god should be deprived of what they want most.
Those who die in these attacks wanted to live, their strongest desire was taken from them. We have to do the same to the extremists, any extremists of any religion, creed or colour. We have to stop feeding them. We have to stop giving them what they want. We have to deny them the chance of martyrdom whenever possible.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.